LOGAN – After more than two hours of public comments, debate and discussion among city leaders, Logan City Council members are going to spend the next two weeks “digesting” what they heard before making a decision on a direction for the redevelopment of Center Block.
The public Tuesday night was invited to weigh in on three different options for revitalizing the downtown area, many offered additional suggestions.
Option one, proposed by Mayor Holly Daines and Cowboy Partners developer Dan Lofgren, includes demolition of the Emporium and adjacent buildings to make way for a public plaza, stage, 124 unit apartment building and parking structure.
Marty Moore has a business in the area and said he has been waiting for a decade for downtown development to occur. He supports Mayor Daine’s proposal.
“My vision of a vibrant downtown has people living in it,” he said. “You’re going to need apartments, condos and high density structures. Once you have people living in downtown, businesses will come downtown.”
Mark Fjeldstead also owns a downtown business and likes the Mayor’s plan.
“I believe it brings the most people to the most area in downtown and the most light to the area, especially at night,” he said. “I think it’s going to benefit the school district.”
A group of downtown businesses and landowners, including George Daines, CEO of Cache Valley Bank, likes the idea of the public plaza but would rather see it built on Center Street.
Their plan includes a parking terrace behind the plaza, relocating U & I Furniture to the Emporium, Al’s Trophies and Frames would move to the old Poco Loco building and Plaza 45 would become a food hall. Housing is not part of their proposal.
“The city’s plan for this block is a business killer,” stated Vint Larsen, owner of Al’s Trophies and Frames. “If you build 124 apartments, there will be no more parking and business will not invest there.”
Bryce Bosworth owns U & I Furniture and said he’s not sure how semi-trucks will access his store, plus a good portion of his customers are elderly.
“I just don’t see them parking in a parking structure,” he said. “I believe the Logan City plan creates a bigger problem for parking.”
Parking is clearly a sore subject for Bosworth, Larsen and Daines, who insist the city can’t legally build on land that is currently a parking district behind the Emporium.
“I’m here to tell you very plainly and very clearly…that Logan City does not have the right to build apartment houses on the public parking land in the center of this block,” Daines argued. “Logan city does not own it. You didn’t buy it, you never owned it and you don’t own it now. You’re a trustee for the block owners who put the money in to buy it.”
The land dispute is over a 1969 agreement between Logan City and downtown block owners. Who has title to the property depends on who you talk with. Daines and City Attorney Kymber Housley agree on one thing – there should be a legal opinion.
“The city is not saying we want to take the parking…we’ve never suggested that we are just going to force this on the owners,” Housley stated. “The approach has always been we want the owners on board. If there’s enough support for this project we will litigate it. Sometimes you have to do that to do something good for the city.”
A third option for downtown redevelopment, presented by business owner Eugene Needham III, was never mentioned during the public comment period Tuesday night. He has made it clear he is not in favor of demolishing the Emporium and is also concerned about adequate parking.
City Council members said they took lots of notes and were keeping track of which option people preferred.
Several people suggested taking the best of all the proposals and combing them into one.
Council member Tom Jensen said he had met several times with all the proponents and “I’ve even tried to come up with alternative plans trying to make this thing work out so that everybody is happy. I can’t do that,” he admitted.
“I really love some portions of George’s plan and I really like the plan that the Cowboy Partners have come up with as well,” said Council member Mark Anderson. “I’ve tried to listen to what everyone one is saying…the one underlying factor is that everyone wants to see something great for downtown. I’m concerned with what’s going on in the south part of Logan, there’s a lot of development going on there…we need something downtown to give people a reason to be here. I just know we need to something for downtown to help revitalize because things are changing.”
The city council will bring the issue back to the table during their meeting on March 17.